How one Norfolk farm is helping with mental health issues
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011
A revolutionary treatment for mental health issues has been ongoing in rural Norfolk for five years now. George Ryan visits a farm where patients are prescribed a visit by the doctor.
It looks just like any other farm. It produces real crops, there are pigs and chickens which need looking after, and produce is sold to the public in local shops.
Clinks Care Farm is a little bit different though, because it not just plants and animals that are grown – it also aims to grow people.
People with anxiety and depression come to the farm for a three month placement to work on their recovery and to gain confidence.
Doeke Dobma and Iris van Zon took on the 143 acre farm, in Toft Monks, near Beccles, about six years ago, after hearing about the idea of care farms in Holland.
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Mr Dobma said: 'So far, we've supported almost 150 patients. After 12 weeks on the farm, many find their feet and are able to move on in society, feeling energised, motivated and more confident. Some secure employment though our engagement with local and rural employers, while others go into further education and volunteering.'
A general practitioner or other primary care worker will 'prescribe' a placement at the farm after a discussion with the patient to see if it is something they would like to do.
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Walking around the farm you get the real sense that people are taking part in gainful work that is helping them rebuild their lives.
There is strong evidence to back this up, which shows people's mental and physical wellbeing improves significantly after time on the farm.
Ms van Zon said: 'By engaging people in the outdoors and with animals it can give the time and space to regain their confidence.
She said this was an important way to help people work towards their goals with the end aim of recovery.
'Seeing the positive in people builds their self-belief. We like to talk about possibilities, not problems and look towards the future, not the past,' she added.
The farm supports people with depression, anxiety disorders, and also helps people with autism and dementia, as well as some people with physical problems.
Annette Schamel, a volunteer at the farm, said: 'This farm helps take people back to their roots. There's no feeling that anyone is in charge but instead that you are all working together in real teams.
'It is about being together and doing a job that is for the benefit of everyone.'
Click here to find out more about the Mental Health Watch campaign